PURPOSE: Rotary blood pumps are a promising treatment approach for patients with a total cavopulmonary connection and a failing cardiovascular system. The aim of this study was to investigate the hemodynamic effects of cavopulmonary support using a numerical model with closed-loop baroreflex and exercise mechanisms.
METHODS: A numerical model of the univentricular cardiovascular system was developed, mimicking the hemodynamics during rest and exercise. Rotary blood pumps with different hydraulic pump characteristics (flat vs steep pressure-flow relationships) were investigated in the cavopulmonary position. Furthermore, two support modes-a constant speed setting and a physiologically controlled speed-were examined.
RESULTS: Hemodynamics without rotary blood pumps were achieved with less than 10% deviation from reported values during rest and exercise. Rotary blood pumps at constant speed improve the hemodynamics at rest, however, they constitute a hydraulic resistance during light (steep characteristics) or moderate (flat characteristics) exercise. In contrast, physiologic control increases cardiac output (moderate exercise: 8.2 vs 7.4 L/min) and reduces sympathetic activation (heart rate at moderate exercise: 111 vs 123 bpm).
CONCLUSION: In this simulation study, the necessity of an automatically controlled rotary blood pump in the cavopulmonary position was shown. A pump at constant speed might constitute an additional resistance to venous return during physical activity. Therefore, a physiologic control algorithm based on the pressure difference between the caval veins and the atrial pressure is proposed to improve hemodynamics, especially during physical activity.